Chapter 9 - Preparation for Mains Examination; Myths and FAQs UPSC Notes | EduRev

Crack Civil Services in First Attempt by Divey Sethi, IRS

UPSC : Chapter 9 - Preparation for Mains Examination; Myths and FAQs UPSC Notes | EduRev

The document Chapter 9 - Preparation for Mains Examination; Myths and FAQs UPSC Notes | EduRev is a part of the UPSC Course Crack Civil Services in First Attempt by Divey Sethi, IRS.
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The civil services examination of 2013 witnessed a drastic change in the pattern of mains examination. Out of the two optional subjects, one was replaced by two additional papers of general studies. This increased the weightage of GS to twice that of the optional subject. Earlier its weightage was half that of the two optional subjects combined. The number of questions in the GS papers was increased to 25 of 10 marks each, to be completed in 3 hours. The thinking time was reduced and speed in writing answers mattered a lot. The intend behind this could have been to elicit a natural response from an aspirant rather than cultivated one or the one that is administered by coaching/training - when faced with questions in the examination hall rapidly. Also, it was compulsory to score at least 10% of total marks in each of the seven papers in mains examination to be considered for merit, that is, one essay, four GS papers and two papers of an optional subject.

The course of all the four papers of general studies was explicitly listed in the notification of CSE 2013. An altogether new subject was introduced in general studies paper – IV called as Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude. The introduction of this paper in GS signifies the importance attached to personal and professional ethics of civil servants by UPSC. The quality a civil servant must possess is discussed in the next chapter on ‘preparations for interview’. Several, but not all, changes introduced in CSE 2013 were taken from the recommendation of Arun Nigavekar committee report submitted in August 2012. The report is now available in public domain by means of RTI.

It was contended before the committee that aspirants at such important positions of civil services generally qualifies by scoring well in the two optional subjects which would have no relevance to the services as such. The civil servants are employed in generalist or functionalist positions and are required to possess a broad general outlook on important current happenings. Taking into account these and other related views, the committee decided to scrap one optional subject and replace it with GS papers. Moreover, civil services preliminary examination served as a screening exam to Indian forest services, 2013. This had significant repercussion on the decreased final merit cut offs in the forest services.

However, there was no change in the compulsory language portion – one is English and the other language can be opted from the list of 22 languages in schedule 8 of the constitution. The minimum qualifying standards are listed in the notification – 25% for both the Indian language and the English language. Marks of interview have been decreased from 300 earlier to 275 in 2013, such that the percentage weightage of interview in the total score for merit remains the same. These changes again provoked huge uproar, after the period of speculation of two months before the notification. To pacify the aspirants, the number of attempts for every category, where there was a limitation, was increased by two with a consequential increase in two years of maximum age limit wherever applicable.

The pattern of mains examination broadly remains same in the year 2014. It is ironical that 2013 witnessed uproar mainly due to drastic changes in the mains examination and in the year 2014 it was converse – protests surround preliminary examination and not the mains examination! Let us try to devise a strategic plan to crack the mains of CSE. Let me assure you dear aspirant that mains is competitively easier than prelims just because of the numbers – out of the 16000 selected candidates in preliminary stage, around 3000 would be selected on the basis of the subjective mains examination to face the interview. A well chalked out strategy that can organize your studies, recalling to memory the information written in a structured manner and examination hall temperament can definitely help you emerge in flying colors in the mains examination. All those aspirants who find mains examination invincible, those who always get through preliminary and then find mains as a bottleneck to crack open and those who have believed till now that mains examination is the only barrier between them and the civil services shall be beneficiaries of these nuances which are to follow in the sections below;


     Essay is nothing but a reflection of general studies. It is a broad, muti-facet assessment of a particular topic under consideration from a generalist view point – a quality mandatory for a civil servant to possess so as to deliberate upon important issues. From the point of view of examination, essay exam is the one where you can create difference in scores. The marks of essay varies widely and it will require certain skills to maintain your score in the range of average and above average marks but profound strategy and practice to land up in the top range of marks. Essay has become more important in the present scenario where the knowledge difference among the aspirants as far as GS is concerned is miniscule; resulting is very closely spaced marks in GS. It is here that essay can give you a huge lead from the competitors. Thus, after a lot of discussions and deliberation with the other successful candidates and their candid sharing of expected marks and actual scores, I have come to the following effective strategy for the essay;

a)  Distinguish between areas and topics:

     An aspirant needs to know the difference between an area and the topics falling in that area. For example, social issues are an area and the topics falling in that area may be women empowerment, family values, casteism etc. Another example – Environment is an area. The topics falling under that area are pollution of air, degradation of land, deforestation, erosion of coastal areas etc. Thus, we can make out that an area is a broad domain incorporating many topics which are the sub sets of that broad area.

     Now an aspirant must recall the way of reading a newspaper – the art of smart reading of newspaper – where in, entries are made into different diaries titled as social, economic, political, environmental, international relations, science & technology. These are nothing but the broad areas listed for you and the entries there in may compose of material to be used in the relevant essays. That means the exercise an aspirant did for his/her general studies preparations by extracting and segregating news of relevance would also prove beneficial in the essay.

     Remember, dear friends, that those essays which provide suitable current related examples, in accordance to the topic under consideration, creates a tremendous effect on the examiner. This is bound to fetch more marks.

b) Make a list of your strong areas:

     For the purpose of an essay, the number of areas swells by incorporating philosophical and historical & cultural topics along with the existing lot of social, economic, political, IR, Environment and S & T. An aspirant must identify his/her comfort zone. You must pick at least three areas of your comfort – when I talk of comfort it includes the assumption that you are aware of the recent happenings related to that field. The fourth area is bound to be chosen to act as a buffer in case of contingency.

     Analyze the essays of the last three years. You will realize that the topics of the essay find its root in at least two areas and maximum three areas – except the philosophical essays. Thus, an aspirant must select three areas of maximum comfort such that he/she must have information to build on and conclude the essay from those three areas.

     Further, there must be either environment or science and technology in those three areas. These both areas are finding relevance in wide issues and can’t be neglected in essay. The best combination of robust areas would be social, economic and science and technology with political area as a buffer. Another good combination would be economic, political and environment with social area as a buffer to act for contingency. A buffer area means that when doesn’t find relevance to any one of the three core areas, then the buffer area can be plugged in.

     After deciding the three core areas and the fourth buffer area an aspirant must be thorough with the current happenings and their analysis in those areas.

c)  Analysis of CSE 2015 (mains) essays:

     An element of surprise in the civil services paper of UPSC is no surprise at all, at least in the last 3 or 4 years! The notification of 2014 CSE should have been paid heed which read as below;

     PAPER-I Essay: Candidates may be required to write essays on multiple topics. They will be expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay to arrange their ideas in orderly fashion and to write concisely. Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.

     The same is the language of CSE 2015 notification.

     “MULTIPLE TOPICS” – these words were sufficient to have ring bells in the minds of an aspirant. And as it happened, there came two essays to be written in the paper; of course the word limits were reduced to almost half of what it had been in the year 2013.The essays too were quite more restricted to a particular area of interest in their approach and content and that too found their origins in burning hot current issues as compared to what was thrown in 2013. Let us see what CSE mains 2015 essays has to offer to the aspirants;


Topic of essay Area 1 Area 2 Area 3 Buffer
Lending hands to someone is better than giving a dole. Philosophy Economic Economic International relations
Quick but steady wins the race Philosophy Economic International relation  
Character of an institution is reflected in its leader. Polity/Political system Economic Social Cultural
Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make a man more clever devil. Economic and social problems in current world  Ethics and values  and Globalization effects on values Human capital formation by education Cultural



Topic of essay

Area 1

Area 2

Area 3


Technology cannot replace manpower

Advances in S & T




Crisis faced in India – moral or economic.


Ethics and morality and values

Social and cultural


Dreams which should not let India sleep.

Ideals of constitution

Insecurities of India – economic, health, energy, food, water etc

International relations


Can capitalism bring inclusive growth?

Economic philosophy

Globalization/liberalization and privatization


Social and cultural lag due to capitalism



The order of prominence of areas is decreasing from area 1 to the buffer area. This identification of area around which the topic of essay revolves, gradation of the importance of areas in that topic will help in identification of the topic chosen to be written for the purpose of examination. An aspirant is advised to practice the above said analysis of at least three other mains examination essays and thereafter discuss it with faculties prominent in this field.

a)  Composition of an essay:

     It is written in the question that an essay should not be more than 1200 words. It doesn’t mean that you have to write as close as possible to the benchmark of 1200 words. Why? It is a 3 hours paper, is it so difficult to write a total of around 2500 words in 3 hours?

     The answer lies in the notification for the CSE which tells the candidates to, “Arrange their ideas in the orderly fashion and to write concisely.” This arrangement or sequencing of thoughts would take time and would not happen if an aspirant just takes to writing the moment he/she is given the question - cum – answer booklet. In fact, it is an advice to the dear aspirant that he/she should invest at least half hour and max. Forty-five minutes to prepare the blue print of an assay and the remaining time should be spent writing the sentences to constitute the essay. Thus, the effective time to write down the essay has reduced from three hours to 2 hours (max) or 1.5 hours (min). From my own experience of writing and reading several blogs on human speed of writing in different circumstances, especially those which invite thinking the speed can be approximately 18 words per minute. Thus, the number of words that can be written in 1.5 hours would be 1620 and that in 2 hours would be 2160. Thus, I consider an approximate average of both the values to be 2000 to be the optimum number of words that should compose both the essays. Thus, taking a variance of 50 words, 950 to 1050 would be sufficient number of words written for each of the two essays.

     These 1000 or so words would be spread into three parts of an essay, that is, introduction, body and conclusion. Introduction will generally consist of 130 words divided into two paragraphs which would introduce the topic of essay to the examiner. This may be done with the help of definition of basic concepts overtly expressed by the essay or hidden in its essence. The conclusion will generally be of 120 words and would present a forward looking approach and an aspirant’s vision for the country in context with the subject of the essay. In this regard, go thoroughly with the approach of Yojana to every issue, challenge or problem faced by the country. It is never pessimist in its approach throughout. Never have I seen nilhistic opinions aired by the authors. The conclusive paragraphs must not be more than two but these should be highly visionary and forward looking.

     Why? Because a civil servant, if pessimist, would negate the spirit of public service itself. It is not that problems and challenges would not be encountered in pragmatic situations. But it is the character of a civil servant to face these challenges as an opportunity for betterment of his/her country men. That aspect must be reflected in your essay. This character of yours as a pragmatic trouble-shooter, within the domains of law and with a vision and foresight is utmost important. This has to be reflected in your conclusion of the essay.

b) The blue print and the body of the essay:

     The body of an essay constituting around 750 words is the main analysis of the topic of the essay and would be based on the blue print thoroughly prepared by the candidate in at least half hour devoted to it. To prepare a blue print an effective way is to use the division chart of the topic of essay – detailing the areas it touches. The points coming to mind should be written in the relevant area. “A candidate is expected to keep closely to the subject of the essay” – says the notification of CSE 2014. The thoughts coming to your mind may not be related closely to the subject matter, nevertheless, write them down at first. These will be filtered in the second process of organizing and sequencing. At first these may not be linked or organized but may be written in a random fashion. Remember, the thoughts won’t flash in your mind in a sequenced flow generally, but these would be abrupt flashes. This is the most significant but highly tormenting part of the blue print. Sometime an aspirant may feel that none is emerging in his/her mind and this may incept a thought to switch over to another essay. But, dear aspirant, you have to eliminate this treacherous tendency. Because once you have selected the essay according to your areas of comfort, the thoughts are bound to come to your mind. It is here that you have to persevere, maintain your calm, have faith in your judgment of essay and stick to it.

     In this exercise what would add as a supplement booster will be the current facts and analysis of newspaper which has been segregated into well maintained diaries. It is easier to recall these facts related to the essay and list them in the relevant area which composes the essay.

     Once this exercise is done, the next step is to get these random thoughts into well-organized pattern. There cannot be listed any explicit rule that can be used by an aspirant to organize random thoughts into one of cause and effect but it is only a matter of practice that mastery of this art can be achieved. With the blue print ready, body is only an extrapolation of that blue print in the essay by making sentences and connecting these sentences by connecters.


A) I have good command over language, thus, I can write better essays.

     A widespread feeling, especially among the freshers. But the contention is not true. Read the notification of CSE 2014 carefully. It says, “Credit will be given for effective and exact expression.” Nowhere is it written that marks will be awarded for literary expression of an essay. Further, effective and exact language has to be simple, lucid and terse. Dear aspirants, even I was suffering from the same myth when I started writing practice essays. Using difficult language, complex sentences may reflect to some extent my command on the English language. Nevertheless, it fetched me not so good marks because the content was less and hollow. Thus, more important it is to improve and enrich your content and to express that in simple and uncomplicated manner.

B) One should begin with quotations.

     On contrary, the quotations should be avoided to start off with the essay. These should be used in the body or in the conclusions and that too only when you remember the exact words. Never should you make your own quotes, for example; someone said “…………” or may be, An intellectual person once told, “……….”

C) Philosophical and general statement-type essays are easy to write.

     Another myth. This thought is of an aspirant who has not yet found foot in various aspects of GS such as social issues, economics, environment etc. The attraction towards philosophical essays is imminent because these will appear so true. Look at the philosophical essay of CSE (mains) 2013 – “Be the change you want to see in others” – Gandhiji.

     Repeat it in your mind and give it a slightest of thought. You will realize how true it is! The essay can be reversed into – How can you expect changes in other people unless you change first? Or maybe – If you want to change people then set an example for them to emulate and this can happen only when you change first.

     Secondly, in the essay of CSE mains 2014 a statement is required to be elaborated “Words are sharper than the two-edged sword”. How accurate it seems. But just check the areas it is related to – an aspirant generally won’t study much in these areas, that is, Communication and interpersonal skills as well as soft skills and diplomacy.

     An aspirant would find twinkle in his/her eyes upon deciphering the intent of the essay. But here is the catch. Try to write 500 words on it and you will find succumbing to the essay. It would be difficult to generate ideas and may end up to a highly repetitive content in its essence but differing only in language. Further, you shall find it difficult to support the philosophical contentions with diverse examples from current related events and persons. Thus, it is my sincere request to the aspirants that one should avoid these types of essay and focus on other areas.

D) Essays can be dealt with the knowledge of GS only.

     As we have discussed above that essays are nothing but a reflection of GS, so an aspirant would not require any additional new knowledge for writing essays but only what he/she has absorbed during the study of GS. However, to say that no practice of writing essay is required would be completely false. An aspirant is advised to write at least five essays and get it checked from his/her teachers or experts in the field.

     It must be noted that with the provision of answer – cum – question booklet the space of writing an essay is more or less restricted and has to be gauged at the first instance and during writing also. Gone are those days when the aspirants attached additional answer sheets for writing elaborate essay.

     Here I must take the privilege to highlight the gross error one of my friends made in the essay of mains 2013. Disrespecting the fact that space is limited he kept on writing only to realize at the end that there is no more space left for a proper conclusion. Thus, the essay had to be ended abruptly. He was awarded 49 marks and consequently his name didn’t reflect in the interview list. Therefore, in the contemporary times, an aspirant must write at least 5 essays and that too in a space constraint similar to that of civil services examination.


  • GS PAPER 1: Indian heritage and culture, History and Geography of the world and society.

     This is the most static and predictable paper in the mains examination and thus, the potential for a good score is high. However, it would require a significant part of effort on behalf of an aspirant to have a good command of history and geography of both India and the world. The reason is simple – the course content is huge. Also the number of questions in 2015 were reduced from 25 to 20 questions of 12.5 marks each.

     Here I will tell you how to build upon the knowledge of History and Geography that has already been acquired to some extent while studying for preliminary examination. What minimum incremental effort is required over and above the already existing base of prelims to maximize the score in this paper. The analysis of the paper in 2015 and answer writing techniques have also been dwelled into.

Analysis of the GS paper 1 in CSE (Mains), 2015

Course content Questions in CSE Mains 2015 and percentage weightage Additional readings(over and above preliminary preparations)
Indian culture will cover salient aspects of art forms, literature and architecture from ancient to medieval times The ancient civilization in Indian sub-continent differed from those of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece in that its culture and traditions have been preserved without a breakdown to the present day. Comment. The questions were from known topics but not direct instead anticipatory and inference based. The weightage of this section has increased from 8% in CSE 2013 to presently 10%. The readings for this section must include NCERT Class XII ‘Themes in Indian history’, Part 1, 2 and 3. Selective readings of Bhakti and sufi movements, colonial cities is required. As the questions in this section are inference based so very detailed coaching notes won’t be required as these are not the need of the hour. (Refer to the special section of art and culture at the end of this chapter)
Mesolithic rock cut architecture of India not only reflects the cultural life of the times but also a fine aesthetic sense comparable to modem painting. Critically evaluate this comment.
…………10% weightage.
Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues. How different would have been the achievement of Indian independence without Mahatma Gandhi? Discuss The questions from modern Indian history are not particularly direct in their content and intent. A basic reading of text ‘History of modern Indian’ by Bipin Chandra along with NCERT Class VIII textbooks, ‘Our Past – III’, both part 1 and 2, is required. But, there is absolutely no requirement of reading ‘India’s struggle for independence’ by the same author as it is an exhaustive detailed study which won’t be required to answer questions at the civil services level in present day scenario.
The Freedom Struggle - its various stages and important contributors /contributions from different parts of the country. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, despite having divergent approaches and strategies, had a common goal of amelioration of the downtrodden. Elucidate.
  It would have been difficult for the Constituent Assembly to complete its historic task of drafting the Constitution for Independent India in just three years but for the experience gained with the Government of India Act, 1935. Discuss
  ……………..15% weightage
Post-independence consolidation and reorganization within the country.    
History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization, political philosophies like communism, capitalism, socialism etc.- their forms and effect on the society Why did the industrial revolution first occur in England? Discuss the quality of life of the people there during the industrialization. How does it compare with that in India at present? Although the weightage of the world history decreased from 16% in 2013 to presently 10%, yet the topic itself is important and must spark inevitable interest in the aspirant’s mind. The questions do not stress in the nuances of any world event but the broad causes and its probable effect on world. The reading must comprise of basic texts of NCERT Class IX and X titled at ‘India and the contemporary world’ part 1 and 2 both along with section IV – towards modernization of class XII NCERT- ‘Themes in world history’. The bulky notes of the coaching institutes such as vajiran would constitute only a futile reading, instead notes by Himanshu Khatri sir can be referred to as a concise substitute.
To what extent can Germany be held responsible for causing the two World Wars? Discuss critically
………10% weightage
Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India. Describe any four cultural elements of diversity in India and rate their relative significance in building a national identity Such general questions if explained through concepts would prove to be a better answer. For this, some basic theoretical understanding of society may be extracted from NCERT Class XI textbook ‘Understanding Society’ first two chapters and NCERT Class XII textbook ‘Indian society’ chapter 1,2, 3 and 6.
…… 5% weightage
Role of women and women's organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.  Critically examine whether growing population is the cause of poverty OR poverty is the main cause of population increase in India. Basic text that can be referred is NCERT Class XII textbook ‘Social change and development in India’ chapter 4 and 5. This has be strengthened by additional readings of some good coaching notes such as that of RIAS or vajiram – both are adept in this regard.
How do you explain the statistics that show that the sex ratio in Tribes in India is more favourable to women than the sex ratio among Scheduled Castes?
Discuss the changes in the trends of labour migration within and outside India in the last four decades
Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are the three mega cities of the country but the air pollution is much more serious problem in Delhi as compared to the other two. Why is this so?
Smart cities in India cannot sustain without smart villages. Discuss this statement in the backdrop of rural urban integration
…… 25% weightage
Effects of globalization on Indian society Discuss the positive and negative effects of globalization on women in India. It is better not to search and read for specific text of this general topic as your articulated answer from a general understanding would suffice the requirements.
………..5% weightage
Social empowerment, communalism, regionalism & secularism Debate the issue of whether and how contemporary movements for assertion of Dalit identity work towards annihilation of caste To answer this section one must require the basic understanding of these concepts given in NCERT Class XI political science textbook titled as ‘Political Theory’.
….. 5% weightage
Salient features of world's physical geography. Explain the factors responsible for the origin of ocean currents. How do they influence regional climates, fishing and navigation? The questions this year consisted of typical air pressure systems of the earth. All such topics can be read from NCERT Class XI Textbook titled as ‘Fundamentals of physical geography’. In this regard, geography book of knowracle publication may also be referred.
…….. 5% weightage
Distribution of key natural resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India) India is well endowed with fresh water resources. Critically examine why it still suffers from water scarcity. The weightage of this topic has increased from 12% in the year 2013 to 15% at present. It includes both the India’s economic geography as well as that of the world. Distribution of resources has been dealt in preliminary section and that of world’s natural resources it may be covered form the study material of vajiram. Nevertheless, the questions require application of mind and it is advisable to refer to any good sample question papers of this topic in particular.
The states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are reaching the limits of their ecological carrying capacity due to tourism. Critically evaluate.
What are the economic significances of discovery of oil in Arctic Sea and its possible environmental consequences?
…..15% weightage
Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes How far do you agree that the behavior of the Indian monsoon has been changing due to humanizing landscapes? Discuss Reading the above written text will also cover this part. These concepts are not in isolation of the phenomenon which have been discussed above. 
…….. 5% weightage


Comments on GS paper 1 of CSE (mains):

As we can see above, the study material for the paper is copious. So even if the paper is of static nature, still to get more than 80 marks is a task in itself. The part of art and culture should be made into notes and at the end of the day only these notes should be revised. However, there is no requirement to create notes of world history as the questions would be more or less analytical than factual. Thus, an aspirant must refrain from learning world history.

A girl studying from a reputed coaching institute came to me when two months were left before writing mains 2013. “I am stuck up in American revolution.” She said plainly. Upon digging deeper into the issue I found that she was stuck up in remembering the minute events, their chronology and dates! “I just want to make my answer so perfect.” That is what she replied when I asked her why. I tried my level best but could not eliminate from her that instinct of being the ‘perfect one creating perfect answers’. After my result I realized that she had dropped her idea of being an IPS, which she had coveted so much a few months back!

My point is that there is a general tendency of coaching institutes – due to the fierce competition with each other - that each want to see them superior from the other. This they realize by distinguishing the class notes from that of other coaching institutes by incorporating unnecessary and absolutely redundant facts. An aspirant must not be a victim of mutual competition of institutes. Coming to the answer writing in Paper 1 of GS, the endeavor should not be to write the most perfect answer, but to write as many answers as possible with exact and precise expression. The paper would be so copious that we would barely find time to remember details, nuances and our skills of grammar and command over language would play an almost redundant role.

For every 10 marks question an aspirant has to write up to160 words in 2015 CSE. To write as close as possible to this maximum limit is not our target. But to write as close as possible to the demand of the question in minimum possible time is our goal. Thus, I feel that 80% of the maximum prescribed word limit should be your target. The challenge here would be to attempt around 230 marks out of 250 total. Remember my dear aspirant the target is to maximize marks not to write three or four perfect answers.


  • GS PAPER 2: Governance, constitution, polity, social justice and international relations.

            This paper is very dynamic in its essence. It will require continuous upgradations of current affairs and that has to be incorporated in the answers. But the problem here is not its dynamic course but overlapping content. Once we analyze the paper we will find that there are some common areas between different topics of this paper. Thus, we have to be cautious of repetitive efforts that would lead to wastage of a lot of time.

     Still there exist some static part of the content in the form of constitution and polity. This is a scoring part and would cover up any deficit that is created in the marks due to lack of knowledge in the current affairs. Further, international relations, though dynamic, is another part where an aspirant can score very good marks. Here the role of segregated newspaper notes will come into play but compiling them would be a painstaking task.

     Governance and social justice are overlapping in their essence and content and yet so wide that without structuring these would create havoc till the last moment. Governance, particularly, would attract many general looking questions. A candidate may be tempted to believe that these questions can be answered without sufficient knowledge of the content of governance. This tendency has to be evaded in paper 2. The common sense subject matter has to be studied and filtered and structured into organized notes. All this will be dealt after the analysis of GS paper 2 in mains 2015.


Analysis of the GS paper 2 in CSE (Mains), 2015

Course content

Questions in CSE Mains 2015 and percentage weightage

Additional readings(over and above preliminary preparations)

Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure

Does the right to clean environment entail legal regulations on burning crackers during Diwali? Discuss in the light of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and Judgments of the Apex Court in this regard.

.... 5% weightage

The questions are far from direct. It is not required to memorize the details of how the constitution emerged – a part of which is also common with history. The first few chapters of Laxmikant caters to the section.

Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein

Discuss the possible factors that inhibit India from enacting for its citizens a uniform civil code as provided for in the Directive Principles of State Policy. Discuss

The concept of cooperative federalism has been increasingly emphasized in recent years. Highlight the drawbacks in the existing structure and the extent to which cooperative federalism would answer the shortcomings.

In absence of a well-educated and organized local level government system, `Panchayats’ and ‘Samitis’ have remained mainly political institutions and not effective instruments of governance. Critically discuss

… 15% weightage

Although the question from this section was a direct one, yet this section requires in depth knowledge of all aspects of centre-state relations – administrative, legislative and financial. Discussions and debate on federalism is evolving so the aspirants are requested to read this from SubhashKashyap and NCERT Class XI textbook. Local government and related provisions may be studied from Laxmikant.

Separation of powers between various organs, dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

KhapPanchayats have been in the news for functioning as extra-constitutional authorities, often delivering pronouncements amounting to human rights violations. Discuss critically the actions taken by the legislative, executive and the judiciary to set the things right in this regard.


This section deals with the delicate balance of executive, legislature and judiciary. The structure and functionality of higher judiciary needs to be studied in detail. Alternate dispute redressal mechanism also needs mention here. Deliberation of constitutional, statutory, regulatory and quasi-judicial bodies are well presented in laxmikant.

Comparison of the Indian constitutional scheme with that of other countries


Question from this section is unlikely, however, the features our constitution has borrowed from different constitution of other countries must be known. One small chapter in laxmikant deals with this.

Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.


This section is well drafted in the book written by SubhashKashyap ‘our constitution’. For the conduct rules one may refer to the loksabha website also. If we see in both the mains of 2013 and 2014, the questions from this section tries to extract an aspirant’s problem solving capacity rather than just the facts stated in the articles. In this regard, the package of sriram ‘Indian constitution, polity and governance’ tries to bring out the underlying polity of the burning hot current topics.

Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.


Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.


Vajiram mains package has sufficiently covered the RPA along with the supreme court judgments in its interpretations.

Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

Resorting to ordinances has always raised concern on violation of the spirit of separation of powers doctrine. While noting the rationales justifying the power to promulgate ordinances, analyze whether the decisions of the Supreme Court on the issue have further facilitated resorting to this power. Should the power to promulgate ordinances be repealed?

…. 5% weightage

President, Vice-president, Governor, CAG, attorney general, judges of SC and HC, finance commission are the main stress area here. Comparative charts mentioning the qualifications, powers, emoluments, privileges, removal etc. are suggested to be made from Laxmikant.

Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

What are the major changes brought in the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 through the recent Ordinance promulgated by the President? How far will it improve India’s dispute resolution mechanism? Discuss

“For achieving the desired objectives, it is necessary to ensure that the regulatory institutions remain independent and autonomous.” Discuss in the light of the experiences in recent past.

.... 10% weightage

This is very well given at the end of Laxmikant. Yet, apart from those mentioned in the standard text one should be vigilant of any other new statutory or regulatory body being debated in current news and its proposed mandate.

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.


The proposal of budget each year has to be studied in detail to gauge the policy changes in various sectors and specifically in trade related issues. Once these changes have been listed, an aspirant should consult expert teachers so as to elicit the challenges as well as their effects of implementation.

Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders

Examine critically the recent changes in the rules governing foreign funding of NGOs under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), 1976

The Self-Help Group (SHG) Bank Linkage Programme (SBLP), which is India’s own innovation, has proved to be one of the most effective poverty alleviation and women empowerment programmes. Elucidate

How can the role of NGOs be strengthened in India for development works relating to protection of the environment? Discuss throwing light on the major constraints

…. 15% weightage

This section broadly accommodates the structure, issues and linkages of various voluntary organization. National policy on voluntary organization must be studied from internet. More details are well written in vajiram package.

Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.


This is a vast issue of social justice and has to be structured in order to grasp it in detail in a logical manner. It has been made into a table type learning structure which an aspirant has to fill time and again whenever relevant facts related to this topic emerge.

Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

The quality of higher education in India requires major improvements to make it internationally competitive. Do you think that the entry of foreign educational institutions would help improve the quality of higher and technical education in the country? Discuss.

Public health system has limitations in providing universal health coverage. Do you think that the private sector could help in bridging the gap? What other viable alternatives would you suggest?

…… 10% weightage

This topic is common between human geography and economics. Multi-dimensional analysis of two sectors – education and health – covering all; primary, secondary and tertiary sub sectors, is required. The questions are anticipatory in nature and they can be answered once the basic minimum knowledge exists. For this topic there is no clear cut source. An aspirant has to take inputs from segregated copies of newspaper analysis.

Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

Though there have been several different estimates of poverty in India, all indicate reduction in poverty levels over time. Do you agree? Critically examine with reference to urban and rural poverty indicators.

….. 5% weightage

Poverty, hunger and malnutrition are again multi-dimensional topics with diverse sectorial linkages. The issue is related to social, economic, geographic and environment too. However, an aspirant is advised to study at least concept of poverty line, hidden hunger, malnutrition etc.

Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

In the light of the Satyam Scandal (2009), discuss the changes brought in corporate governance to ensure transparency, accountability.

“If amendment bill to the Whistleblowers Act, 2011 tabled in the Parliament is passed, there may be no one left to protect.” Critically evaluate.

….. 10% weightage

It is one of the most repetitive and overlapping of all the sections. Coaching material may create a lot of confusion. Thus, an aspirant is advised to study related topics in yojna, especially special issues of e-governance and information communication technology.

Role of civil services in a democracy. India


A common topic found in paper 4 of GS also. It will be dealt there taking into account the ethics of civil services and its role in democracy.

India and its neighborhood- relations. Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora. Important International institutions, agencies and for a- their structure, mandate

Project `Mausam’ is considered a unique foreign policy initiative of the Indian Government to improve relationship with its neighbors. Does the project have a strategic dimension? Discuss

Terrorist activities and mutual distrust have clouded India-Pakistan relations. To what extent the use of soft power like sports and cultural exchanges could help generate goodwill between the two countries? Discuss with suitable examples.

Increasing interest of India in Africa has its pros and cons. Critically examine.

Discuss the impediments India is facing in its pursuit of a permanent seat in UN Security Council.

……. 20% weightage

Although the weightage of IR has decreased this year to 20% from the last year’s 25%, yet it is significant part in the paper 2 of GS. IR is an organic topic yet it is scoring because of the limitation of the number of questions that can be framed in a span of a year’s development. One should start of by reading the basic tenets of India’s foreign policy till now quite well elaborated in V.P. Dutt’s ‘India’s foreign policy since independence’ and NCERT textbook of class XII ‘Contemporary world politics’. For the current related scenario there can be two methodologies – first; for continuous IR sections in newspaper one should make entries into a separate diary dedicated for this task and second; an aspirant may entirely leave IR for the last month before mains to be read from vajiram’s dedicated book on IR. Another book titled as ‘contemporary international issues and affairs’ by swati Mahajan is a substitute for the vajiram package. An aspirant should read any one of them but not both.


Comments on GS paper 2 of CSE (mains):


The syllabus of paper 2 may look enormous but an organized study can considerably reduce efforts. The whole part of international relations can be done in less than one week. Why? Look at the questions of IR in paper 2. None of the questions talks about the intricacies of strategic deals, terms of bilateral economic treaties or terms of cultural exchange programmes with visa requirements fluctuating now and then. Thus, factor must be taken into account while maintaining the diary of IR. If that part is done religiously and astutely, the aspirant may not even require any coaching notes at the end of the day. Further, V.P Dutt’s book is like a novel – it should be read just for the sake of curiosity – when the aspirant is mentally tired due to any reason. Same hold true for the NCERT of political science. It talks of the world situation during the cold war and after that the formation of international bodies their roles, mandates etc, and would be called for again in economics of paper 3.

The problem of welfare schemes for vulnerable sections will be troublesome. These needs to be structured into the following table;


Discussions on







Street vendors

Constitutional provisions








Legislations – acts and bills








Recent judgments








Government schemes








National policies










The aspirant is encouraged to fill the table himself/herself. This would be beneficial not only for GS part but also play an important role in essay.

Governance is yet another part that may lead to confusion due to repetition. This portion would also be found to a large extent in GS paper 4. An aspirant is encouraged to think on the following lines and extract material pertaining to it and develop it in the form of notes;

a)  What is good governance?

b)  What is the ethics underlying good governance?

c)  Mechanisms to promote it – RTI, Citizens’ charter, Transparency pact, ICT and e – gov.

d)  Suggested reforms in bureaucracy

e)  Recent legislations that promote good governance – such as whistle blowers act, lokpal, lokayukta etc.


  • GS PAPER 3: Technology, Economic development, Biodiversity, Environment, Security and Disaster management.

     This is the most organic paper of general studies. The underlying principles remain the same but the current development changes every year. These static principles such as that of economics, science and technology, environment, biodiversity are utmost needed at the level of preliminary exam. An aspirant appearing for mains examination is expected to build upon these principles and reflect on the current issues related to the above subjects.

     Moreover, the topics in this paper will find most relevance while writing essay. This paper has clear cut three areas – science &technology, economics, environment/ecology. The topic of security and disaster management was newly incorporated in the changed syllabus of CSE 2013. It is highly dynamic topic which deals with both internal and external security of India as well as the cyber security – a fall out of technological revolution during the last decade. Disaster management finds its presence in the explicit syllabus after the whole country had witnessed the devastating effects of flash floods in Uttrakhand in 2012. It has become a subject of grave importance as one realizes that human life is fragile in the present day over exploited world by anthropogenic activities.

     Because of the dynamic nature of the subject an aspirant shall not find himself/herself limited to only textbooks but a lot of current inputs would be required. Here again those diaries of segregated information and analysis of newspaper would play an important role. Remember my dear aspirants that this paper can take a toll on your preparations if you just try to gulp down the facts, because their numbers would run into hundreds. Thus, pick and choose of information and then its multi-dimensional analysis is the mantra for this paper. Also, the topics in this paper can’t be seen in isolation with each other. Thus, it may happen that a person may categorize a question to be more of economic in nature while another may categorize the same question to be more of environmental in nature. For example; would there not be economic effects of a new innovation or invention in science and technology? Would there not be environmental effect of that same phenomenon? And can it not change the security structure of the country by diminishing or aggravating old or new threats? This approach has to be constantly followed while discussing this paper. But let us first analyze the GS paper 3 for the year 2015 so as to chalk out the focus areas

 Analysis of GS paper 3 of CSE (Mains) 2015:

Course content

Questions in CSE Mains 2015 and percentage weightage

Additional readings(over and above preliminary preparations)

Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

The nature of economic growth in India in described as jobless growth. Do you agree with this view? Give arguments in favour of your answer.

…….. 5% weightage

The basic text which an aspirant must have read by now is NCERT class XI textbook. This has to be supplement by reading first 3 chapters of UMA Kapila ‘Indian economy since independence’.

Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.


Yojana issue with related headings can be read. Certain chapters of the 12th plan document will also be relevant.

Government Budgeting.

Craze for gold in Indians have led to a surge in import of gold in recent years and put pressure on balance of payments and external value of rupee. In view of this, examine the merits of Gold Monetization Scheme.

……. 5% Weightage

The basics of government budgeting is explained very well in the class XII NCERT economics textbook of macro-economics. The budget analysis of the latest year must be incorporated into the studies before mains exam.

Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers

How can the ‘Digital India’ programme help farmers to improve farm productivity and income? What steps has the Government taken in this regards?

……. 5% Weightage

This topic is closely related to economic geography and a base for this has already been created by reading NCERT geography textbook of class VIII and X. APMC in its all respect must be known by now. An aspirant must watch out for any issue of kurukshetra particularly in this regard.

Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.

In what way could replacement of price subsidy with Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) change the scenario of subsidies in India? Discuss

……. 5% Weightage

These issues find only a slight mention in NCERTs, thus these have to be supplemented by reading Uma kapila. Two things are important – PDS; challenges and changing forms, and, India’s stand in WTO regarding subsidies. These are also elaborated in Sriram package for economics.

Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.

Livestock rearing has a big potential for providing non-farm employment and income in rural areas. Discuss


What are the impediments in marketing and supply chain management in industry in India? Can e-commerce help in overcoming these bottlenecks?

……. 10% Weightage

This topic also overlaps with economic geography. These days look out for emerging business models of mobile applications and aggregator models of OLA and OYO.

Land reforms in India

In view of the declining average size of land holdings in India which has made agriculture non-viable for a majority of farmers, should contract farming and land leasing be promoted in agriculture? Critically evaluate the pros and cons.

……. 5% Weightage

Read the chapter on land reforms, its evolution and current practices in umakapila. Look out for recent legislation in yojna.

Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

“Success of ‘Make in India’ programme depends on the success of ‘Skill India’ programme and radical labor reforms.” Discuss with logical arguments.


……. 5% Weightage

The phenomenon of liberalization and its effect on trade, industry, fiscal and financial structure has already been dealt in NCERTs. Now this would attract two types of questions – one related to the broad effect of liberalization on a particular sector and the other related to any specific bill, act or amendment that relates to service or industrial sectors.

Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

There is a clear acknowledgement that Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are a tool of industrial development, manufacturing and exports. Recognizing this potential, the whole instrumentality of SEZs requires augmentation. Discuss the issues plaguing the success of SEZs with respect to taxation, governing laws and administration.

……. 5% Weightage

Infrastructure is a vast area. Divide it into two broad topics – economic and social infrastructure. The former consists of energy, public/civil, transportation, communication infrastructure. The latter consists of health and education sectors which has been studied earlier.

Investment models.


Study here PPP, BOLT, BOOT, FDI etc. One upcoming is PPPP. All this has to be segregated form internet resources regarding its arrangement, issues and applications.

Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

What are the areas of prohibitive labour that can be sustainably managed by robots? Discuss the initiatives that can propel research in premier research institutes for substantive and gainful innovation.

……. 5% Weightage

This has a total weightage of 15% which is same at that of the last year. S&T of GS mains will be quite different from what is being asked in preliminary examination. There are two ways to do this section. Either an aspirant must always be vigilant about the S&T section in newspaper and write it in separate dedicated notebook to be referred later or one can read the complied version of S&T in Sriram’s package and a book titled as ‘contemporary science and technology’ by Pranav Mahajan. In both the cases an aspirant is advised to be organized and structured otherwise huge amount of data will cause a pain. No historical evolutionary background of IT, space, computers, robotics etc is required. IPR must be focused upon more than the rest.

Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

What do you understand by ‘Standard Positioning Systems’ and ‘Protection Positioning Systems’ in the GPS era? Discuss the advantages India perceives from its ambitious IRNSS programme employing just seven satellites

……. 5% Weightage

Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

India’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) which has a database containing formatted information on more than 2 million medicinal formulations is proving a powerful weapon in the country’s fight against erroneous patents. Discuss the pros and cons making this database publicly available under open-source licensing

……. 5% Weightage

Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

To what factors can the recent dramatic fall in equipment costs and tariff of solar energy be attributed? What implications does the trend have for the thermal power producers and the related industry?


The NamamiGange and National mission for clean Ganga (NMCG) programmes and causes of mixed results from the previous schemes. What quantum leaps can help preserve the river Ganga better than incremental inputs?

……. 10% Weightage

Weightage of this part remains the same. Here a revision of ‘teachers’ handbook on environment’ would be required and the aspirant has to go through the whole book instead of part readings as suggested in preliminary. The other suggested reading is of recent judgments of NGT and supreme court in this regard.

Disaster and disaster management.

The frequency of earthquakes appears to have increased in the Indian subcontinent. However, India’s preparedness for mitigating their impact has significant gaps. Discuss various aspects.

……. 5% Weightage

The whole circular process of disaster management along with basic definitions will be found on the website of NDMA. If an aspirant is reluctant to find information on internet then he/she may read a separate book on Environment and disaster management by Dr. B.Ramaswamy. There is a high possibility that question may be based on any recent disaster which occurred or averted. So please look out for that.

Linkages between development and spread of extremism.

The persisting drives of the government for development of large industries in backward areas have resulted in isolating the tribal population and the farmers who face multiple displacements with Malkangiri and naxalbari foci, discuss the corrective strategies needed to win the left wing extremism (LWE) doctrine affected citizens back into the mainstream of social and economic growth.

……. 5% Weightage

The weightage of this whole section remains same at 25%. Thus this topic has taken a visible priority from UPSC. These topics are important not only for GS but also essay. An aspirant is required to prepare essays on cyber security, internal security and social media. These are the most dynamic topic of all the course as there is no single source of information. An unorthodox way would be to hunt some bureaucrat linked to some security agency and seek his/her help. However, that option may not be available to many. Thus, to enlist materials it is recommended to study vajiram notes for this topic. The practice question paper of vision coaching for this part is also worth trying.

Role of external state and nonstate actors in creating challenges to internal security.


Challenges to internal security through communication networks, role of media and social networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cyber security; money-laundering and its prevention

Religious indoctrination via digital media has resulted in Indian youth joining the ISIS. What is ISIS and its mission? How can ISIS be dangerous for the internal security of our country?

Discuss the advantage and security implications of cloud hosting of server vis-a-vis in-house machine-based hosting for government businesses


Considering the threats cyberspace poses for the country, India needs a “Digital Armed Force” to prevent crimes. Critically evaluate the National Cyber Security Policy, 2013 outlining the challenges perceived in its effective implementation

……. 15% Weightage

Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism

Human rights activists constantly highlight the view that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) is a draconian act leading to cases of human rights abuses by the security forces. What sections of AFSPA are opposed by the activists? Critically evaluate the requirement with reference to the view held by the Apex Court

……. 5% Weightage

Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate




Comments on GS paper 3 of CSE (mains):

This section is the trickiest as well as the most tempting of all the GS mains content. Just because of the single reason that the course in paper 3 is the most diversified in its essence and nature. Aspirant will find the basic text insufficient to answer the type of questions asked in the mains examination in this paper. Thus, they would require searching for study material which increases their vulnerability to commercialization of information.  Infinite numbers of books are available in the book stores – online and offline, majority of which would contain repetitive content but in different well designed colors.  There are consultancies which conduct market research to provide information to the publishing houses that which color combination would appeal the maximum to the buyers! An aspirant has to safeguard this tendency of running into numerous materials and buying it without purpose.

One of my friends invited me to his place at Rajendra place, Delhi when he came to know that I intend to start preparations for civil services in the month of September, 2012. He threw open his small rented room which consisted of one bed, one study table and infinite number of books that were thrown on bed and on the floor. One could not stand inside his room without stepping upon the books, notes, study material or whatever that laid on the floor!

“You know, I just wanted to tell you that the more you read the more your chances of success increases.” He advised me indicating to the chaotic condition of the room. “How should I proceed with economics? That is a subject I can relate to.” I asked him still not finding my way into the room.

“First read all the NCERTs from 6th to 12th class. Then proceed to Ramesh singh. After that comes Uma Kapila, A to Z reading, cover to cover” He emphasized and after the pause continued. “Economics is a diverse subject. The above readings will only create a base. After this you have to read the full 12th year plan document and then the plan, economics survey and India year book. To compile all these we would finally read the notes of sriram.” I was stunned by the volume of the suggested readings when he showed me these books.

When I proceeded with my preparations of economics on 12th October 2012 and had purchased all these books, within two weeks into the studies I realized the repetitive matter and unnecessary details composed more than 90 % of the material. Thus, it is suggested to the aspirant that for civil services India year book and the five year plan (complete) are both not required. In Plan document (plan document is different from the five year plan) selected chapters of significance, which an aspirant will identify during the course of preparations and the flagship schemes of economics survey, will suffice the purpose.

My score in this paper was 80 marks and that friend of mine who had read even the microeconomics from NCERT class XI scored 37 marks in the same paper and could not find his name in the list of candidates selected for the interview. However, the aspirant is motivated and encouraged to take the score to 100 marks in paper 3 of general studies.


  • GS PAPER 4: Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude.

The general studies paper 4 was a game changer in CSE 2013. Candidates have scored right from 130 to even 30 in this paper. The range of marks in this paper itself gives the incentive for working in a smart manner so as to oust other candidates. The paper of ethics in GS mains 2014 was more analytical than that in the previous year. The intend of introducing this paper in civil services by UPSC was to bring in forefront the importance of personal and professional conduct of civil servants. UPSC has tried to give a message by introducing this course as to how the country’s non-political executive should align their conduct while performing their duty and otherwise also. An aspirant may not become ethical or moral, inculcate values and spirit of public service by studying the course of this new paper, but at least he/she will have an indication of what is the requirement expected of a public servant. This message has rightly percolated into the minds of all the aspirants throughout the country and struck cordial chords even with those informed men and women who may not be aspiring civil servants but are aware of the happening in our country.

After applauding the decision of UPSC to introduce this new course on ethics as an entirely different paper, I come straight to business, that is, the strategy to maximize your score in this paper. Let us see what the UPSC civil services notification has to say about this paper.

“This paper will include questions to test the candidates’ attitude and approach to issues relating to integrity, probity in public life and his problem solving approach to various issues and conflicts faced by him in dealing with society. Questions may utilize the case study approach to determine these aspects.”

Reading the above sentences makes two things clear; first, that there will be some theoretical questions and other situational questions and second, the situational questions would framed in a manner so as to elicit the basic trait of a candidates’ personality and to check whether he/she is adept as a civil servant or not. With these facts in mind we proceed forward for the analysis of this GS paper 4 in mains 2015


Analysis of GS paper 4 of CSE (mains) 2015;

This is the division of the course into topics and sub-topics, which makes it easier to organize the study content in a form that can be easily retrieved to the memory.






Ethics and human interface             

Attitude, aptitude and foundational values for civil services, Emotional intelligence

Contribution of moral thinkers and philosophers

Public/civil service values and ethics in public administration, probity in governance

Decision making/case studies

Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships. Human Values - lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.

Attitude: content, structure, function; its influence and relation with thought and behavior; moral and political attitudes; social influence and persuasion.

Aptitude and foundational values for Civil Service , integrity, impartiality and non-partisanship, objectivity, dedication to public service, empathy, tolerance and compassion towards the weaker-sections

Emotional intelligence-concepts, and their utilities and application in administration and governance.



Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions; laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance; accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance; ethical issues in international relations and funding; corporate governance.

Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information, Codes of Ethics, Codes of Conduct, Citizen's Charters, Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption.



Comments on GS paper 4 of CSE (mains);

My experience of studying the course of paper 4 was not good. Mainly due to the reason that the content is highly repetitive. The part which was new, such as, Ethics and human interface, Attitude and Aptitude for civil services, felt very alien while reading with coaching study material and some textbooks also. There will be a tendency of being lost in the book. An aspirant may feel that irrespective of a lot of reading in the above subject matter, he/she is not able to recall or correlate the readings. To counter such tendencies one has to create notes – topic-wise notes – as mentioned in the notification. While doing this, an aspirant should eliminate the tendency to stray here and there. This will become clear in the example below;

While dealing with the first topic course is written along with it.

ETHICS AND HUMAN INTERFACE; Essence, determinants and consequences of Ethics in human actions; dimensions of ethics; ethics in private and public relationships.

Human Values - lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders, reformers and administrators; role of family, society and educational institutions in inculcating values.

An aspirant must be precise in studying, creating notes and then imbibing the following in his/her mind;

a)  What is ethics?

b)  What are the various dimensions of ethics?

c)  What are the determinants of ethics?

d)  Relationship between ethics, morals and values.

e)  Relation between private and public ethics along with examples.

f)   How family, society and educational institutes responsible for inculcating values in children?

g)  What values should they inculcate in them?

     The list of above questions is not exhaustive and aspirant is encouraged to create more questions from the above written content.

     It is worth to note that the sentence in bold related to human values should be grouped under the head of “contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world.”

     Thus, it is more convenient to create questions out of the course and look out for the answers to these questions. This will certainly reduce or even eliminate the tendency to wander in the book or study material. Same exercise may be done for the part “Attitude, Aptitude and foundational values for civil services, Emotional intelligence. Aspirant is asked to create his/her questions and then look out for answers in the books and study material. The printed material of the institute sriram is well written in this regard.

     Come to the part that deals with “contributions of moral thinkers and philosophers from India and the world.” The candidate is asked to bring out the meaning of these statements by world famous personalities in the present context. Thus, while studying this topic an aspirant may not learn the exact teachings of numerous philosophers and personalities. Only the area of his/her work or contribution is sufficient to be known. Further, the term ‘present context’ is important and should not be ignored while elucidating the meaning of any statement. A current event, news or phenomenon in connection to that statement will certainly create and impact. I will give you an example;

     “There is enough on this earth for every one’s need but for no one’s greed.” ——— Mahatma Gandhi.

     This statement in the current context can be correlated to carbon credit trading, stalemate achieved in climate talks, crony capitalism versus environmentalists, GDP centered development and so on.

     Coming to the dynamic part of paper 4 of GS. Let us first discuss the topic “Public/civil service values and ethics in public administration, Probity in governance.” This topic is bound to find resemblance with the topic of good governance in paper 2. Role of civil services in democracy was in fact another topic in paper 2 that can be better dealt here in paper 4 of GS. The best source of study for this part is the second administrative reforms commission report which has touched every aspect of our country. In fact some of the topics in this part are directly found in the report. Another important reading here is a book authored by Dr. B. Ramaswamy titled as ‘Public/civil service values and ethics in public administration.’

     The most important part in the whole of paper 4 is the decision making on case studies. It carries around 50% of the weightage and that signifies the intent of UPSC. Upon grilling the candidate in myriad number of tough scenarios it is highly probable that the true character of the candidate would lay bare in front of the examiner who would then determine whether or not those characteristics are adept for a civil servant. Thus, an aspirant is to be very cautious in dealing with these situational decision making questions.

     The approach which I shall tell you is based on an algorithm with a series of sequential steps that would indeed help you to arrive at the appropriate conclusion. The basic tenets of the algorithm are given below;

a)  In any situation identify the stakeholders – they may not be natural persons but juristic also.

b)  For any situation many options are possible. Identify those two actions which create ethical dilemma (if the question has given all the possibilities then there is no need for this step)

c)  Analyze all the probable possibilities of actions with the tools of standard concepts of Utilitarian and teleological method. In the former, if benefit is served to maximum number of people then the chosen option is correct. On the other hand, teleological approach takes in to account whether the means to achieve the desired end are correct ethically or not.

d)  There are two more approaches but rarely used. First is the justice approach and other is the right-based approach.

e)  Apply the utilitarian and teleological approach for every option that is given in the question and then come to certain conclusions.

f)   Then an aspirant shall ask some golden questions to eliminate all but one option that would be the action taken in the given scenario.

g)  Some of these golden questions are; whether the benefit is in the long run or short run? What would happen if all the people follow a particular option or action? Whether any action compromise with the dignity of women or the law of the land?

     The above said approach will become crystal clear once a sample question analysis is done. Further reading suggested is ‘Ethics in governance: resolution of dilemmas with case studies’ by Mohan Kanda.

            Dear aspirant, paper 4 of GS is high scoring paper once you get your foot hold in decision making skills. Answers written in an organized fashion in this paper may fetch you even more than 100 marks which will certainly boost your chances of selection.



A) I have studied the developments of ancient and medieval India. It will be sufficient for art and culture in GS paper1.

     No. The reading of NCERTs, ancient and medieval India, forms the basis on which specific knowledge of art and culture has to be developed. For this read the above section. However, do not think that specific knowledge can be built without knowing the socio-economic settings of ancient and medieval world.

B) History is all about memorizing facts.

     A contention that is absolutely wrong. For prelims nothing has to be memorized and for mains the suggested readings should be more analytical than factual. Please see the mains questions if this myth creates hurdle in your preparations.

C) I read all news about politics, witness heated political debates on television so as to be good in polity.

     After the minor success at preliminary examination of 2013, I was invited to a small party by one of my friends who had tasted that success two times earlier also. During the dinner he switched on the debate on tv channel times now hosted by ArnabGoswami. That was the first time I had witnessed such an outrageous debate live on a news channel. I inquired the reason of my friend’s enjoyment during the show. “These debates help you create an opinion and these opinion based questions would come in your mains examination in polity paper.”

     My friend was a victim of the similarity created by two terms polity and politics. Both are widely different. An aspirant is required to bring the polity out of the political news. For example; I may be least interested in what Mr. Kejriwal campaigns for bringing the BJP govt to conduct election in Delhi. But I have to check in the constitution that as per A - 239AA for how long can president’s rule stay in Delhi. What is the role of Lt. Governor of Delhi in such a scenario when the capital is functioning with no elected government? Similar thoughts must baffle your mind while reading the political news.

     As far as the debates on tv channels are considered, the more provocative a debate is the more its rating may be. Thus, it seems to me that there is a competition among the news channels and the hosts of the prominent shows to ask agitating questions on burning issues. The media is utterly callous to the intolerance that is being propagated by these methods of propaganda. And surprisingly these shows are big hits. People are enjoying word wars – the murkier its get the more enjoyment it brings! Thus, dear aspirants, even if you have a little propensity for this prime time political debates please avoid them. They will do more harm than good not only by wasting your precious time but also making you intolerant personality in the long run, which in fact, is a character contrary to the quality of a civil servant.

D) How do I revise polity?

     The better word should be how to revisit polity. Do it whenever you find suitable news which can have its root in polity. Imbibing polity is a continuous process. You can’t just one fine day get up and take a pledge to remember all the articles by night. Even if you do so it would be a redundant exercise. Remembering articles is not at all important but their usage is.

E)  The ethical decision making questions of paper 4 can be done without any preparations.

     No. Do not take that risk to write a lay man answers in that section. Use specific approaches in an organized fashion. This will only take your score to more than 100 plus. Also, these 125 marks would not require significant energies. I think practicing 6 or 7 questions in time bound manner and with space constraint is more than sufficient. Then why to leave this stone unturned?

F)  I don’t believe myself to be an ethical person then how can I score well in ethics paper?

     Your personal ethics won’t play a major role if these are camouflaged in good preparation and organized structuring of answers in paper 4 of GS. However, during the course of study you must try to align your personal ethics with the requirements of services otherwise there is a high possibility that it may be laid bare in the interview.

G) One should not bother about the compulsory language papers.

     Dear aspirants these compulsory papers are far from being innocuous. I have seen three candidates failing in either of English and one of the languages that you need to take from those listed in schedule 8. It is even tormenting that if one fails in these compulsory language paper he/she would not find even the marks in other papers of mains examination. Thus, you would just not be able to know whether you cleared the cut off for the mains or not.

     Thus, it is a sincere advice that every aspirant must practice some previous years’ paper of both the compulsory languages in a time bound manner. This may be done a week before the mains examination. Also, in the actual papers do not leave any section or even a question unanswered. I had practiced three Hindi paper of compulsory language which consisted of one essay at the beginning of the paper. But in the actual paper in there were two essays to be written in 2013 mains. But in mains 2014 again there was one essay to be written. The candidate is advised to practice writing two essays which would require serious effort to complete the paper in three hours.

H) Marking in the civil services mains examination is random. High subjectivity is involved.

     What you can’t see is left open for umpteen interpretations. The marking procedure is not disclosed by UPSC and that the constitutional body has all the rights not to be under the ambit of RTI in paper setting and checking aspect is upheld by the apex court. Thus, we must not debate and discuss these contentious issues. I advise aspirants to refrain from this debate at all forums and try to concentrate on their subject matter so as to enhance their chances of selection. All these unnecessary debates are unproductive and drain out energy from the body and mind. Please avoid these and concentrate on your target.


  • Special section on Art and Culture

When we prepare for UPSC, especially the art and culture section, it is more important for the candidate to know what not to read than what to read, as huge volume is present to boggle the minds of candidates. In other words the section of art and culture suffers with the problem of surplus. In such a scenario our focus should not divert to becoming the master of the subject but to maximize our marks.  Indian heritage and Culture is one of the important topics candidate cannot afford to miss. When viewed from two different angles it simultaneously becomes the most difficult of all topics and if approached in a structured manner it is perceived to be a scoring section.

There is a general bonafide difficulty – that most of the aspirants are not from this subject background so they find it difficult to cope with it. However, it is one of the scoring sections both in preliminary and mains if you get the right guidance and right material and you know the exact depth and the extent to study. The importance of Indian Heritage and Culture is on constant rise as far as marks devoted to this section is concerned from the year 2012 onwards. Another important aspect is that this section comes in the beginning of GS 1 Paper (around 20 % weightage) which also means that a candidate who attempts this section good enough will carry that impression in further questions of GS paper 1.

The syllabus of Indian heritage and culture written in the notification of CSE reads like this ‘Indian heritage and culture, Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art forms, Literature and architecture from ancient to Modern Times.’

Does this provide any idea of what exactly you have to study? NO. The aspirants then runs through thousands of pages in the myriad study material that is present. In this peer pressure governs the choices of study material rather than rationale. Thus, to make the life of an aspirant easier we present here a brief of various topics which a candidate must prepare with full devotion for both mains and preliminary exams

Basic backgrounds:  It will be discussed in relation to religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism which will make the concepts more clear and will help study the art forms in the easier form.

Urban planning and culture of Indus valley Civilization, Universities like Nalanda, Taxila etc.

Dances and Music: Its origin, sources, classical forms, basic differences among the forms and classification of the specific forms according to states.

Literature: Ancient Literature like Vedic, Buddhisim, Jaininsm, Indian literature in science like arybhatta, sangam, medieval, modern literature, regional literatures.

Architecture: IVC, Buddhist Architecture, Rock Cut Architecture, Architecture fundamentals, Temple architecture, different styles in Guptas, Rashtrakutas, BadamiChalukyas, Western Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas, Pallavas, Cholas, Medieval Architecture like Indo-Islamic Architecture, Mughals Architecture, and modern architecture.

Paintings:  Cave, manuscripts, frescoes, murals, folk, modern and contemporary has to be imbibed with respect to different styles, schools and dynasties.

Sculptures: Basic understanding of terminologies like idol, image, icons, and iconography. Sculptures from primitive times from Harappa, Gandhara and Mathura school of art, Hindu idols and sculptures from medieval, modern and contemporary times.

Fairs and Festivals: Pilgrims and festivals which define the culture of India with special reference to the division among the states.

Music: Origin, Development, main streams, basic concepts, Devotional music, Folk music.

Theatre Cinema: The journey of traditional recitation of story to the coming theatres of India till the modern concept of cinema and its development.

Art and Craft: Varied use of materials like wood, clay, ivory glass, fabric etc. And its quality of Craftsmanship will be discussed.

Famous Personalities in the Art and Culture: Distinguished personalities in paintings, architecture, cinema theatre such as Nek Chand, Satyajeet Ray, Correo, panditbheemsen Joshi

Cultural Institutions: These basically covers institutions from pre to post independence times such as ASI, Asiatic society and kalabhawan.

Spread of Indian Art Culture to foreign lands: the influence of Indian art to the South East Asia, Sri Lanka, Burma and Indonesia.

The above mentioned are the explicit areas of study required for Indian heritage and culture as far as UPSC civil services is concerned for both preliminary and mains. We request the aspirants not to divide the subject material for preliminary and mains examination as such. It is advised that while studying for preliminary exam a candidate must give one reading to the above mentioned topics and try to retain the maximum to the best of his/her capabilities. However, when the mains exam approaches, the facts and figures may get diluted and at times the memory fails with regard to this section. But the aspirant should not be demoralized as the subject matter of study remains the same. One more reading of the same subject matter is suffice to recall the blurring facts. Above that, if three practice papers of repute are written by the candidate in a time bound and space bound manner, as is the current trend of CSE, this indeed will take the preparation and confidence to the zenith level.

Now the question is what sources must be read to cover the aforesaid explicit course content. One of the better ways is to search for each of these terms on internet and jot down basic points regarding that term. But this has to be done after reading some basic standard texts which are mentioned below. These will build a foundation of understanding Indian heritage and culture over and above which additional knowledge can be acquired.

  1. Themes in Indian History NCERT Class XII, Part 1, 2, 3
  2. Official Site of Culture and Heritage of India
  3. Ancient India by Susan Huntington
  4. Indian Paintings by BN  Goswamy
  5. Survey of Indian Sculptures- SK Saraswati
  6. History and Culture of India by RC Majumdar

Note: That while using internet to search for the terms mentioned above preference should be given to The content which can’t be found on this website should be searched on other websites.

To make the life of aspirants easier we have compiled all the relevant details of the above explicit listings of topics and sub-topics in the form of a book written in a lucid and sequential flow methodology which is easier to remember and recall. All the relevant questions of previous years shall be discussed in the book. This book will be released by the month of October 2016 and will be helpful for mains 2016 and preliminary 2017.

  • This section is written by, Kunjanvema, BFA fine arts, MA – Art history and visual arts and MandeepJalota, IRS
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